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March 28, 2008

ULM President James Cofer commits to addressing workforce needs; BOS approves letters of intent for proposed ULM programs

ULM President James Cofer joined his colleagues in addressing Louisiana’s workforce needs. The eight university presidents in the University of Louisiana System signed an agreement that the UL System will address some of the state’s critical shortage areas by 2012. Yesterday’s commitment was part of a second-annual day-long forum in which national and state education leaders, college presidents, legislators and others discussed the issues surrounding students’ access to college and their success at achieving a degree.

The UL System agreed to:

“ULM’s focus on a learning-centered educational environment—the redesigned first-year Math and English courses that incorporate technology and the plans for new programs in the health sciences—will directly affect graduation rates and ultimately benefit northeast Louisiana’s workforce,” said ULM President James Cofer.

Today, the UL System Board of Supervisors approved ULM’s letter of intent for a Master of Science in Nursing Administration, an online degree, and a letter of intent for a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Sonography. ULM has been working with the Board of Supervisors and the Board of Regents in developing these new programs, both of which are fast-tracked and are pending approval from the BOR.

Cofer said, “ULM’s plans for new programs in health sciences, including online courses, will ensure that students from Northeast Louisiana are well-served by ULM and the UL System. We also believe these initiatives will directly enhance the northeast Louisiana workforce.”

The most recent Louisiana Department of Labor statistics show 981 vacancies in education, 3,140 in engineering, 2,379 in business, and 9,484 in health care.

“This is so timely,” said Representative Freddie Mills of Parks, a pharmacy graduate from the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

“I just came from a meeting at the Department of Health and Hospitals where we discussed the state’s health care worker shortage. We need to continue growing and keep our professionals here in Louisiana, and I want to support your initiative anyway I can,” said Mills.

UL System President Sally Clausen commended the presidents for their commitment to accountability and affirmed that their performance toward meeting the 2012 goals would be tied to resources.

“The public will be able to track our progress using the new online tool launched today. The College Portraits are an important step in the UL System’s commitme

The UL System officially launched an online resource for students and parents that includes detailed data on costs and student progress. The consumer-oriented “College Portraits” contain information about such things as cost of attendance, degree offerings, and campus safety.

The UL System is the first in the country to launch its College Portraits, which is a product of a joint initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) called the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA).

President Cofer said, “As college portraits continue to become available nation-wide, prospective students and their parents can compare ULM to institutions across the country, learn the value of our university and realize that ULM is a national competitor.”

After a detailed demonstration of the College Portraits, education leaders commented on the value of the tool to students, parents, and others. "You can print each university’s profile and compare them side-by-side. This is a way for students to look into the college experience sooner than they would otherwise,” said UL System Student Board Member and Nicholls Student Government President Olinda Ricard.

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Linda Johnson lauded the close working relationship between K-12 and higher education and was excited to explore the College Portraits online herself.

“It’s extremely user friendly and well designed. You don’t have to be a college graduate to understand it and use it with your children,” said Johnson. “Isn’t it great to be first in the nation, especially with something as important as this?”

Chair of the national VSA oversight committee and Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, William Kirwan, discussed the economic value of making college accessible to underserved populations.

“High schools students from the lowest socioeconomic backgrounds that do not attend college have an 80 percent chance of staying in the lowest economic level. If those same students attend college, they have an 80 percent chance of entering the middle class or higher.”

“If we don’t address this, we’re in danger of creating a permanent underclass in this nation for the first time in our history,” said Kirwan.

The College Portraits are part of the UL System’s larger accountability effort to ensure all students have access to a college education, graduate on time, and meet Louisiana’s workforce needs.

The largest university system in Louisiana, the UL System enrolls approximately 80,000 students at the following eight universities: Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University, McNeese State University, Nicholls State University, Northwestern State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and University of Louisiana at Monroe.

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